Osceola County Commissioners turned away a living wage increase from $8.05 to $11.66 Monday night, citing the repercussions in an uncertain local economy that would come with such an abrupt increase. A living wage would be the minimum amount the county or contractors that do business with the county, could pay their workers.
The full house in the commission chambers featured elected officials, activists and business owners, for and against the increase, which provided hours of public comment.
“We know why we’re here. To bring higher paying jobs to the area” said state Senator Darren Soto citing the region’s low standing in the amount it pays it workers. “This is part of our effort. This is another part of the solution. To live by example. We pay no matter what, whether it’s soup kitchens and shelters or paying workers with dignity.”
On this night, the voices in opposition would be stronger.
“I’ve had the opportunity to provide jobs. You don’t know the joy when you can come into an area and create 100 or 1000 jobs”said Businessman and Osceola Republican Chairman Mark Oxner, “We need to not do things that discourage companies from coming here, that makes them believe this county is not business friendly.”
Osceola Commissioner Mike Harford, who championed the measure, gave an emotional plea to his fellow commissioners saying “We need to give a solid floor to those who have the least opportunity to have a solid floor.” he continued “We need to take a chance for our neighborhood.”
His colleagues, on a board that is majority Democratic were sympathetic but decided against implementing the increase. Commissioners did agreed to offer some type of incentive system that would promote higher salaries among contractors. Those proposals will be done in the next 90 days.